Woman takes high-profile Granada programme post

DIANNE NELMES, editor of World in Action, emerged yesterday as one of the most powerful women in ITV after being promoted to take charge of all Granada's factual programmes, from current affairs to sport.

The controversial shake-up at the most senior ITV company unifies the factual programmes, current affairs and arts and documentaries departments. It coincides with cost reductions and rationalisation at Granada in Manchester, where 200 jobs are to be cut.

But it also illustrates the changed conditions prevailing within ITV from 1 January, when guaranteed production ends and power over schedules moves from the big regional companies such as Granada to a London-based group of commissioners.

However, the changes were giving concern at Granada yesterday because they appeared to water down the historic concentration on serious factual programmes. It also raises doubts about the future of Ray Fitzwalter, ex-editor of World in Action and head of current affairs, who pioneered Granada's investigative and campaigning programming.

The ascent of Ms Nelmes, who enjoyed her greatest success launching This Morning, ITV's popular daytime programme, was instigated by the departure of Stuart Prebble, head of Granada's factual programmes. He will become commissioning editor for factual programmes at the London-based ITV Network centre, working alongside Marcus Plantin, the network director. This will commission pounds 520m of programmes annually, for screening nation-wide, pounds 80m below the anticipated budget.

For the first time, ITV, which starts to compete directly with Channel 4 from 1 January, has bought two US situation comedies - until now Channel 4 has had a free hand in picking the top US comedy.

Michael Grade, chief executive of Channel 4, yesterday launched its new winter schedules, with the warning that 'this schedule is the most important in Channel 4's history. More important than its opening night (10 years ago). In those days the channel had a guaranteed income. This schedule is the one that will set the seal on our future, It is the most important schedule I have ever been involved with.'

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